Karl Olgeir Olgeirsson and Sigríður Eyrún Friðriksdóttir discussed the death of their newborn son Nói Hrafn on January 8, 2015 on RÚV’s news magazine Kastljós yesterday. His death was caused by a series of mistakes at Landspítali National University Hospital.
In early January 2015, after a 42-week pregnancy, the delivery began normally but the boy ended up being delivered by vacuum extraction. Nói Hrafn suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen. He was resuscitated but died five days after the delivery.
Karl and Sigríður felt as if no one had listened to them. They repeatedly asked to consult with a specialist and for a C-section.
The couple filed a complaint to the Directorate of Health in May 2015. The directorate concluded: “This is a case of negligence and mistake among healthcare employees, which caused irreversible brain damage and the boy’s death. In addition, the healthcare employees showed the parents unseemly behavior.”
According to the Directorate of Health’s estimate, the midwives showed negligence in not reacting sooner to distress signals from the fetal monitor seven to eight hours before Nói Hrafn was delivered by vacuum extraction.
The report also concluded that a specialist should have been called immediately after the distress signals were noted but not five hours later, as was the case. The specialist is also criticized in the report for having left the delivery room and for underestimating the situation.
“The specialist came to us and asked for our apology for having left the first time,” Karl said on Kastljós. “He truly wished that he hadn’t done that. He would have stayed.”
Sigríður added that Nói Hrafn had been healthy. “He was examined closely. … There was nothing wrong with him. If I had been given the help that I needed to deliver him, he would have been alive today.”
The Directorate of Health and Landspítali disagree on this being a case of neglect. However, the hospital admits that mistakes were made. A meeting was held at the hospital an hour after the delivery and the report shows that the employees involved realized immediately that things should have been handled differently.
“Everyone is devastated about the incident. [The specialist] explains the reasons for his decision-making on the two occasions he was called. He now sees the circumstances in a different light and would have wanted to take action sooner. Risk factors were most likely underestimated,” the report reads.
According to law, an unexpected death in a healthcare institution, which is believed to have been caused by a mistake, neglect or an accident, is to be reported to the Directorate of Health and the police.
Landspítali did not report Nói Hrafn’s death to the police. Director of nursing Sigríður Gunnarsdóttir reasoned on Kastljós yesterday that the law is unclear as to which cases are to be reported to the police and that the hospital is working with the Directorate of Health and the police on clarifying it.
Sigríður added that in hindsight, Nói Hrafn’s death should have been reported to the police. She also stated that this is the most serious incident the Labor and Delivery Ward at Landspítali has ever experienced.
“There are between eight and 12 serious incidents [at the Labor and Delivery Ward] every year but this is the most serious we have ever dealt with,” Sigríður confirmed.